Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Role Modeling: The Evolution of an Apology

Jo Ashline
joashline.com

themomblog.ocregister.com/author/jashline

I took the long way,
but I think I've finally arrived
First, I wrote I Told Autism to SUCK IT. Yeah. I Said It.
 
Then it was My Point Still Stands: Autism Can Take a Flying Leap.

Then From Proud Mom to Bigot.

Then Us vs. Them.

Finally though, I think I get it.

I think.

Maybe it’s because I’m just a few short days away from my period ... I don’t freaking know but in any case I’m over here bawling my eyes out because one week later I think I finally get it.

I’m passionate.

I’m truthful.

I write truthfully with passion.

And I wrote something that others found offensive and I came back and said…”Who gives a damn? This is MY SPACE, SO F$%% off.”

Except.

The universe doesn’t just belong to me.

It belongs to everyone.

And what I put out there, out in this big, vast, diverse universe, through my teeny tiny blog, affects others more than I gave credit for.

Trust me when I say it would be much easier to keep reading the comments of support.

But it is the comments of anger and hurt that have been keeping me up at night.

And I think that it’s got something to do with the fact that I’m a good person (despite what some may think) who knows intrinsically the difference between right and wrong; I’ve been taught my entire life that hurting others, even if you didn’t mean to, is wrong.

It’s what I teach my 8 year-old son Ian, who does not have autism.

It’s what I teach my 9-year old son Andrew who does have autism, the best way I know. And I believe that a part of him gets it.

So essentially, I’m being a big fat hypocrite. And an asshole.

Because instead of coming out and saying “I’m so sorry I hurt you,” I’ve written long-winded posts trying to excuse myself from the fact that I said something hurtful to a large group of people. Fellow human beings.

Dammit, that’s just not how I choose to live my life.

I can tell you till I’m blue in the face that I didn’t mean to cause others pain, but that’s not relevant because the truth is -- I did.

And DAMMIT if AA hasn’t taught me a thing or two in the last almost six years of sobriety, one of which is taking responsibility for my actions and admitting my wrongs and the other is to make amends when necessary.

I know now.

It’s necessary.

So.

No excuses.

…………………….

I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry to all of you who felt hurt and threatened by what started out as a proud mother’s momentary fist-in-the-air kind of moment and quickly turned into all hell breaking loose.

Even though I have a right to express my feelings about autism or any other issue my kids or loved ones are up against, that doesn’t mean that I have to go around being a dick about it. (I never said my apology was going to be eloquent). I mean, at first I didn’t think I was being a dick about it, but after getting to know some people online and asking questions and getting real eye-opening answers ... well, it turns out I WAS A MAJOR DICK ABOUT IT.

Some would like me to remove the post.

I’m not gonna do that.

Instead, I’m going to use it for the greater good. I’m going to keep the negative comments and the positive ones. I’m going to link to the posts that transpired on the blog after the original one. And then I’m going to hope and pray that someone might learn from my mistake.

To those of you who rallied around me when the shit hit the fan, thank you so much. I have such an amazing village. But I think we are rallying around the wrong thing. We need to rally for mutual respect. We need to rally for diversity. We need to rally for healing. And yes, some of us choose to rally for cures and therapies and miracles. But I think that can be done in a way that isn’t going to hurt others. I think it can be done in a way that makes people look at us in awe and think, “Wow, now there is a group of people that can disagree without bullying one another.” I’m not saying you can’t think what you want about autism and the way it affects your child. I’m just saying we need to tap into that whole “words have the power to either heal or hurt” thing.

I choose to use this experience as a learning opportunity.

I choose not to make bumper sticker or t-shirts that will offend an entire group of people. People who deserve to be given respect even if I don’t see eye to eye with some of them.

I choose not to say SUCK IT AUTISM on my blog anymore. I mean, I will say it sucks in my head every once in a while, because truth be told, it’s just how I feel sometimes; I don’t want to lie to you. It really is how I feel sometimes. Not every second, not every minute, not even every day. But I do think and feel it sometimes.

But I know now what that particular phrase is capable of and while it invigorated me when I used it the other day, it brought other people to tears when they heard it. And I’ll tell ya, nothing takes the wind out of my sails like realizing just how much damage something I write can cause.

This apology comes with no strings attached.

But if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep reading and researching and trying to take it all in because there’s just so much of it I didn’t even know existed.

I may lose readers over this apology.

I may lose page views and maybe even a friend or two who thinks I’m being wishy-washy, who thinks I should come after my detractors with my fists in the air and my bullhorn pressed against my lips.

But I will regain my ability to look in the mirror and see someone I like staring back at me; someone who is fit to raise her kids to be good, kind, accepting people because she conducts herself the same way she expects them to behave.

Someone who isn’t afraid to say she F@#$ed up.

Someone who refuses to live her life as a coward cloaked in courage’s clothing.

Someone whose children can be proud of someday.

And dammit,

just for that

this whole mess was worth it.

If you are interested in reading more dialogue on this subject and the subject of diversity and the art of offending someone (and how it’s not really something to be proud of) please read this excellent post and the comments below it. These are individuals who really have something to say and they deserve to be heard. I’m not saying you have to agree. Just read and listen. Then come back and tell me what you think.

----


A version of this essay was originally published at joashline.com. Jo also published a follow up essay: Special Needs Mom: Learning the Hard Way on OCRegister.com.