This week began in such a bizarre, upsetting way that it was difficult for me to shift my focus away from it completely. I’m not even sure that I want to address it, but I don’t know how to leave it out, either. As ridiculous as it was, it was a big part of what made this week so challenging for me personally. Monday morning began with a flood of messages and comments on two of my business pages that were extremely critical and mean-spirited, all because a person who has recently set up a competing business misinterpreted a post, took it personally, and decided to retaliate. Because they are now in the same line of business that I have spent the last couple years building mine into, we have gotten messages confusing her for one of our characters. This person is promoting large gatherings at beaches and a swimming park. These are the types of events we have postponed doing, and will not be doing until the Covid-19 situation is under control for obvious reasons. The post on my business pages that they all took issue with clarified in a generic way that our company is not associated with someone who is encouraging people to gather for these large events. It then outlined why we are not doing those types of events, and provided details about how potential clients can contact us to book the types of events we are able to do right now (virtual only, though other characters in the company also do socially distant outdoor performances for now). I described our performers as professionals, which was apparently one of the major triggers to the other party. By stating that our performers are “professional,” they all felt that I was implying that she was not professional and otherwise disparaging her and saying we are better than she is. Normally, I wouldn’t (generically or otherwise) refer to any other similar companies on my business pages, because what others do with their business has nothing to do with mine. In this particular instance, though, I felt the need to be very clear in separating our business from her because a great deal of personal and professional sacrifice has gone into making hard decisions these past several months. And I do not want to be confused with someone who is not going to the lengths that we are to be safe. We had a signed contract with arguably the biggest chain of gyms in Alaska in March, just before the first Hunker Down was ordered and everything changed. Our characters would have been performing there for camp events and parties of all kinds, and my company would have been promoted on the television screens in their gyms all across Alaska. I had to respectfully request that we postpone the agreement, and I don’t know if I will even have a business left to bring it up with them again based on how things are going now. I don’t make these calls lightly, and I am very aware that they may well cost me my business in the long run. It’s not easy. So much sweat, tears, love, time, money, and emotions have gone into building it into what it was, and now finding our way along doing things virtually… it’s hard to watch things crumble. But it’s not worth risking my performers, their families, my family, or any of the people we could encounter at an unsafe in-person event. If I’m making these calls, I’m standing behind them, and I definitely want everyone to know what our company stands for and what it does not. The post was about us, not her. Our company, nobody else’s. Still, I spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday blocking and banning people, and eventually they took it to my email. I had to stop lessons and everything just to keep up with moderating it all. It really tore me up how things could have been so twisted, and how it mobilized such a nasty and sophomoric attack. At first, I felt badly that someone had been offended by my words. I almost always default to “I must have done something wrong, this is my fault somehow,” so I focused more on my own actions before realizing that what they were doing to me was completely inappropriate and hypocritical. Which brings me to my next question – why is this behavior okay? Why is it so normal? This is just one example of how a misunderstanding has turned into an attack (in my experience). There have been a few times where people have gotten angry and tried to “cancel” me or my business through social media attacks. All of the times it has happened, I’ve always been completely puzzled at how I could have been so badly misunderstood, because in my mind, I was perfectly clear. And if they understood where I was coming from, they wouldn’t be angry. I am frequently misunderstood and misunderstand people, which is why I almost always consult at least one other person before posting or sending important communications now. As a person with autism I have a hard time interpreting social cues, intentions, and nuances. I’ve learned to consult people I trust to make sure I’m seeing and understanding things from all sides, and I’m not perfect but I do go to great lengths to be polite, understanding and respectful, because that is how I would like to be treated. Why is it always on me though? Why isn’t there more effort expected from others? It seems like people with autism – or any other type of issue that makes them experience the world differently than others – are always expected to bend over backwards to make others as comfortable with their existence as possible. I’m so tired of feeling like I have to apologize for existing. It would be nice to be met halfway sometimes. It’s exhausting trying to understand people who are determined to misunderstand you. Especially when they want to create conflict, which I avoid with every fiber of my being. I don’t need people knocking me down a notch. I don’t think that highly of myself as it is, so criticism is especially wounding when it’s meant to be hurtful. I can’t grasp what could actually be valuable critique of my behavior (which may have been delivered in the wrong way, but should still be considered), and what was just spoken in anger to sting the most. So I usually assume all of it must be true. I’m the one with the “problem,” right? It takes a long time to rebuild even a little self-confidence after these type of confrontations. None of this is comfortable for me to talk about, and I don’t enjoy doing it. I don’t know if it just sounds like whining, but what I hope is that it might help others see another perspective. I didn’t set out to write a blog that feels so exposing. I didn’t set out to write a blog at all, in fact. My husband asked me to, and I’m writing about things that are happening to us and are relevant to us. I guess I’m hopeful that we are moving toward a world that is more understanding and open in discussing mental health. I think it’s crucial that we get to that point, and soon. Also, I don’t know how to make any of this worth reading if it isn’t authentic. So here we are. School hasn’t really been “normal” this week. I couldn’t get my brain’s motor going in that direction after Fairytale Creaturegate 2020 derailed lessons for the first three days. Not that school was ever “normal” to begin with. We didn’t delve into any deep lessons and focused instead on art, playing and helping around the house, because it seemed like fun and it’s what I wanted to do for once. I was fortunate to have two kits from Paint Nights with Sara on hand. Sara is another Kodiak girl who has an art business. We did an event together last winter, and now we’ve partnered for a craft-along activity that goes with one of my company’s monthly virtual activities for kids. She graciously gave us a couple full sized sample boxes from her subscription art box service for my kids to try out, and thank God. It was exactly what we needed this week. There were so many different projects in each box, so there was plenty to keep each kid occupied for several hours. Arialle (the teenager) even joined in to paint a little fox. Connor, who “hates” art, really enjoyed painting a rainbow snake. Tyler and Willow kept painting and creating all day long, and we let everything dry on the table overnight. Everyone had a blast and it was refreshing to have a day focusing on something I really enjoy doing vs. something that is a battle or difficult for me to teach. We even have enough left over project pieces to do this another day as well. And we got some pretty cute home made art projects out of it! It was a taxing week for me, and Connor has been extremely high strung lately as well. It seemed as good a week as any for trying to find new, healthy ways to help Connor (and everyone else) deal with stress. Connor has been having trouble with big feelings lately, so with the help of his counselor, we came up with a list of things that he could do to help calm him down when he feels really frustrated or angry. We’ve been trying to work in more nature walks. It’s a good way to get exercise, let them be loud, and just enjoy the scenery around the lake. There’s a family of ducks that we visit every time we go to this “special spot” that the kids love to walk to. Connor always balks about going outside, but he seems to get exactly what he needs from the walks, so I’d say they’re working. I just need to make sure we take advantage of the days it’s nice enough to do them. Basketball has been something that has really helped him when he feels overwhelmed lately as well. He’s got a hoop and small ball in his room, and recently he’s been going in there to shoot hoops when he needs alone time. He seems to come out in a better mood afterward, so it definitely appears to be helping him work through whatever emotions he needs to digest. My husband’s birthday was Friday, so he was able to take a couple of days off to enjoy some time with the family. He and the kids got to work on putting together a housewarming gift we received from a friend. They all did a great job listening and following instructions each step of the assembly process. Willow even jumped in to help with some of the easier parts of the job. They were all very proud of themselves once it was finished. I’m not 100% sure what category this would fall under, but we’ll call it a home science lesson or something. A few hours building something this complex deserves some school credit, I think. Speaking of which…their contact teacher is now actually asking about ILPs, and apparently work samples are due by October 15th. Ha ha ha. Sigh. I just hope what we’ve been doing so far is even remotely acceptable, and that I’m able to make contact with her to develop their lesson plans early next week. We’re doing our best. Everyone is. Be kind.