When your best parenting fails

Yesterday was a very emotional day, which culminated in sending my oldest Zach to live with his mother.

Zach will always be my hero. I’ve watched him struggle and grow through years of public school missteps and outright failures at the hands of willfully ignorant administrators who ignored or minimized his Asperger’s and ADHD.

Zach soared in high school and it looked like the sky was the limit after graduation. That was until depression took hold. My caring, optimistic son became distant and mentally self-destructive.

As a young man with Asperger’s, he’s subject to black and white thinking, inflexibility and social anxiety.

After his mother left us when he was 11, I became a single parent to he and his brothers for a time. Unbeknownst to me, and possibly him. He developed a belief that no one had the right to parent him but me. He also decided he had no mother, couldn’t trust a woman to be his mother because his own mother left. Beliefs he holds to this day.

Because of this, he began lashing out at every woman who tried to guide him. This brings us to today some 8 years later.

I’ve used my best tools to help Zach let go of these toxic beliefs. As much suffering as they cause him, he believes they protect him from even greater suffering.

Unfortunately, these beliefs result in such abusive behavior toward others, women, that want nothing more than to guide him and see him do well. That having him in our home on a daily basis was no longer a healthy arrangement.

As of yesterday Zach now lives with his mother. There are still many hard feeling there but he and I both see this as an opportunity for the two of them to explore and heal their relationship.

One thing I learned long ago, that in order to replace a toxic pattern with a healthier one, you need to change people, places, and things. We couldn’t do that here. Zach needed a new environment to work on himself and he agreed.

Fortunately, this doesn’t change anything between he and I. I’m still his biggest supporter, and a very proud Dad.

I hope to talk with him daily and guide him as he makes peace with and eventually changes the beliefs that have protected him emotionally all these years but have done so at a high price.

Along with his therapist and his mother, we’ll support Zach in becoming the best adult he can be.

What’s this mean for you? If you find yourself in a similar situation with a child and are struggling to make a similar decision. It may be helpful for you to remember, that as hard as it is to do. It isn’t a rejection, it isn’t a punishment to entrust your child to others in their time of need.

It’s an opportunity to introduce some fresh eyes, in the hope of fostering new growth. Its an act of faith, unlike anything you’ve likely done before. Let me tell you, it makes for one hell of a long night.

No matter how knowledgeable you believe yourself to be. You’re still biased toward your own perspective. When it comes to your own child, sometimes the greatest act of love is to ask for help when you run out of answers.

I miss him already, but I know where to find him. He knows that as long as I’m breathing, I’ll always be there for him. 

Thanks for being you,

Brian

P.S. I’ve added a lot of FREE Resources to http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions so you can get support without having to invest in anything. Remember, I’m here to help. 

Please see me and not my wheelchair

When I was a child, I felt invisible. To this day its one of my greatest fears. 
 
But I found a solution in a quote from Steve Martin, who when asked what advice he’d give to someone who wants to be successful replied, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” 
 
In whatever field you endeavor, if you want to be noticed you have to be so outstanding that others can’t help BUT notice you. That’s something that drives me to become better each day, especially when it comes to being a better person. 
 
Yesterday I posted a few graphics on Facebook I wanted feedback on. They were designed by my friend Shawna Barnes who is also disabled and a gifted artist. We loved the graphics (which included me in my wheelchair) and I allowed my ego to get too invested before the feedback started coming in.
 
I read a few comments which “I INTERPRETED” as criticism. 
 
Comments like, “A wheelchair doesn’t convey resilience” and “Do you want people to see you or the wheelchair”?
 
The subsequent conversation between my ears led to feelings of hurt, sadness, and anger. 
 
I responded to them with what I’d heard and they graciously clarified their statements. They didn’t mean it as I’d interpreted it. 
 
They expressed concern there was insufficient information on the graphics to explain what I do and it could leave a consumer mind prone to stereotyping to miss the message.
 
An excellent point, but my audience is the folks who live in a wheelchair and know someone who does and gets it all ready. 
 
The point is, I reacted to what I HEARD and not to what was MEANT! But there’s more. It was late at night, I was tired and had a lot of pain in my legs. Why? Because I’d been walking a lot that day instead of using my wheelchair. 
 
When you feel like crap your ability to be resilient can take a hit. 
 
I usually let statements like these roll off my back, immediately clarify and move forward. Now that things were clear and I was feeling calmer I reflected on why I’d become so upset. 
 
Coupled with the fear I was being judged for being in a wheelchair with the pain from a day declining to use my wheelchair led me to a very honest conclusion. 
 
The issue wasn’t how they saw me in a wheelchair, it was how I see myself in a wheelchair. The truth is I’m frightened about what my future will look like because of all the uncertainties. I still resist using the wheelchair in favor of a cane and I pay for it. 
 
This is a problem of my own ego, my own level of acceptance and not about how others see me. 
 
There’s a continuum of acceptance and I’m much further along than I was, with a lot of room to grow. 
 
This acceptance is critical, more than convincing those who stereotype why they MUST see me and not the chair.
 
I need to be able (easier said than done) to look at that person and see that person. To make sure they don’t feel invisible. You can’t wait for other people to change. But you can create an experience for them so powerful, so good they can’t ignore you.
 
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
 
If you don’t want them to see the chair, give them an experience that leaves them feeling good about themselves. Where they remember you as a great listener, a kind person who cared for them. 
 
When they see who you are and feel how you see them, the differences can disappear.
 
Find a way, deep within yourself, to show up so present, compassionate and focused that the experience you give someone else is exceptional. Then they can see you for your humanity. 
 
Wouldn’t it be great if you could model a way of being that becomes the new stereotype for people in wheelchairs? Don’t sell yourself short. 
 
I remember an episode of Different Strokes in which Arnold had a friend in a wheelchair over. At one point he started up the stairs saying, “Come on I want to show you something.” He caught himself and went back to his friend apologetically saying, “I’m sorry, I forgot you were in a wheelchair.” 
 
“Arnold, that’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.” That’s the point. 
 
Remember that ideas like this, healing like this, discovering like this are things we do every single day in my group coaching program, http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions
 
Join us, so your life can change too.  
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian
 
 

Socially awkward? Use it to your advantage.

Social awkwardness can be a common experience for people living with disabilities. Especially if you’re very self-conscious. 

Many years ago I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, just like my three sons. But I’ve worked so hard over the years to become so proficient in social strategies that today I no longer fit the diagnostic criteria. 

I remember the days when I pissed people off by saying the wrong things, was accused of insensitivity because of my blunt honesty and the list goes on. I was so hungry for belonging that I stopped at nothing until I achieved it. 

Unfortunately, until you have the skills you need, you could end up trying so hard and feel so afraid you’ll look bad in front of others that you become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

This topic came up in one of my group coaching calls yesterday. I’ll give you a synopsis of what I taught my clients.

People judge! That’s a reality. No matter how open minded you believe yourself to be, your mind likes to label and categorize. It’s your awareness of and acceptance of this fact that determines how much it influences you. If you deny that it does it’ll sabotage your relationships.  

So what the hell do you do when you’re afraid of being judged by people who will likely judge you anyway? 

You use a strategy a refer to as “Social Disclaimers.” This means you explain the rhyme and reason for a social quirk their likely to encounter while interacting with you and why it’s to their advantage to roll with it.

The anatomy of a social disclaimer is:

1) Describe the quirk
2) The problem it solves for you
3) The need it meets for them

Here are a few examples: 

1) Eye Contact – “I just want you to know I may look away while you’re talking to me, that’s so I can tune in better to what you’re saying because I really want to hear you.

2) Monologuing – “If I ever get long-winded when I’m talking about something, please interrupt me I’m totally cool with it. I also want to hear your thoughts too.”

3) Boredom – “I sometimes forgot others aren’t as interested in certain things as I am. So if you ever get bored please ask to change the subject. It’s not all about me.” 

4) Foot in mouth disease – “Sometimes things sound better in my head than they do when they come out of my mouth. If I ever say anything that upsets you tell me right away so I can clarify. I care about your feelings so I want to eliminate any misunderstandings between us.”

These are just examples and they’re more art than science. The key isn’t to memorize them but to develop your own based on beliefs that this kind of disclosure is necessary for healthy relationships. 

There are likely many old ideas, habits and experiences you’ll have to work through before you find the confidence to use these strategies comfortably and consistently. That’s why this subject comes up on my group coaching calls. Because you don’t have to figure this out alone. 

​​More people than you realize are living the same struggle and are getting the support they need to be more socially successful. I can help you too. Learn more at http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

How to be a man, being disabled

“What does masculinity mean to you?” 

That’s a question I was asked when speaking to my new friend, Barton Cutter. He lives with cerebral palsy, is married, just adopted a puppy and is an all-around great guy.

I felt an immediate shift in my emotions, a guardedness because this is an issue for me. 

My health decline has been pretty fast and has moved faster than my acceptance. 

Two years ago I was walking nature trails with my family and walking hand in hand with my wife. Much of my identity as a man and a father was wrapped up in what I do with and for my family. 

I could protect them from danger, run around on the playground, rough and tumble etc. The culturally preferred role of Dad was something I aspired to and something I saw advocated for in a few of the Facebook groups I belong to.

Bigger biceps meant you were more manly. I’m not knocking fitness, I’m advocating for a broader definition of masculinity. 

It’s been a significant kick in the pride to go from long walks to long naps because climbing a flight of stairs is now tiring. 

What you may lack in physical muscle, can be more than compensated for in the building of emotional, psychological and spiritual muscle. Resilience, attitude, and mindfulness are skills that become stronger in you, beyond your biceps. 

For the record, I’m still working on sorting out what being a man means to me with all the changes I’m going through. But I want to share what I’ve already discovered. 

I’m shifting from an emphasis on what people see to one in which how a person feels with me is the priority. Face it, if a person can’t see you (physically) then what experience do they have of you? They experience your heart, soul, your presence, your compassion.  

Who you are, is best demonstrated by how you show up. Do you say, “You won’t believe the morning I’ve had” and make it about you? Do you show up with a smile and ask, “How’s everyone’s morning going?”  

How present, attentive are you while with another person? Are you truly paying attention? 

The strength of your presence is what makes you a man in that moment. 

Finally, it is critically important to strengthen your dignity. Your sense of self-respect.  

Whether you stand, walk or crawl. With a sense of your own worth, it’s much easier to stand tall (figuratively), speak with conviction and feel strong.

What has ultimately changed isn’t your worth as a man, but in the way you need to BE in the world.  

Every day I have the privilege of helping others stand a little taller while living with their disabilities. They strengthen their dignity, courage, and resilience through my Resilience Warriors Program. Check it out here http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

You are not your disability

What do you think about the following statements?
 
I am dyslexic.
I am autistic. 
I am a loser.
I am Italian.
I am married.
 
I wholeheartedly disagree with the first three because they declare a term can describe who you are as a person. Nothing could be further from the truth.
 
As for all 5 statements, they describe what you have decided is most important about you and what should be the headline as you decide what you can and cannot do in relationship to the rest of the world.
 
I was having a conversation with a client yesterday who has made a habit of shutting down every teachable moment by declaring, “Well I have Asperger’s.”
 
“Are you telling me you can’t learn and grow?”
 
“No, but it’s hard.”
 
“Great! We can work with hard. Working with CAN’T is more difficult.”
 
As you know, I have multiple disabilities, but not a one of them tells you who I am. If you think you know me because I share a label such as ADHD or Dyslexia and you begin making assumptions, that’s called stereotyping. 
 
It’s human to do so because we like to know and be certain of things. It’s also a tremendous barrier between you and me because once you decide you’re right about me, it becomes my work to prove otherwise. Not an easy task. 
 
Many years ago I was at a networking event. I was speaking with a gentleman who asked, “Do you consider yourself an expert?”
 
“I consider myself human.”
 
This is my highest recommendation to you if you struggle to incorporate a diagnosis into your sense of identity. 
 
It’s easier to connect with others when you realize you’re both human as opposed to, “You don’t have what I have so you couldn’t understand.” 
 
So slam the door in their face. 
 
Not being able to relate to one experience doesn’t disqualify them from being able to relate to others. Get over yourself. I’ve observed that much of the isolation experienced by those with disabilities is self-imposed (much, not all).
 
The much I’m referring too is the stream of bullshit running between your ears that assigns difference to everyone you see. “That person can walk and I can’t, I’d probably be a burden to him so I won’t even introduce myself.” Follow me?
 
Carrying that conversation around in which you make up someone else’s mind for them is a detriment to your identity and your life. Instead of building relationships and a support system you spend a disproportionate amount of time disqualifying people from participation in your life.
 
What if, starting now, you live from the answers to these questions? 
 
1) As a human being and nothing more, what do I have in common with everyone else?
2) Of the experiences we all share, how would I begin a friendly conversation about one of them? 
3) What could I say to another human being to help them be seen by me as someone who gets it?
 
Seriously think about these questions, then hit reply and share your answers with me. 
 
The client with Asperger’s I mentioned earlier is a member of my group program and has an exciting career opportunity open to him because he’s opened himself up to improving his communication skills. It’s amazing to play a role in transformations like this. 
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian
 
P.S. I’m going to begin creating audio (podcast) and video versions of these articles which I’ll share on my website. 

You’re at your smartest when you know to do this

If you’re like me you enjoy helping other people. I also seeing help as a way of honoring those who have helped me over the years (and there are a lot). So it’s rarely a question of whether I can be of help, the question is how?

Yesterday I participated in a discussion in which a woman was asking for guidance on whether to support her father after he’d made a huge mistake. She’s estranged from her father who has been abusive, blaming and enjoys his substances. Her mother phoned asking for money to bail her father out of jail after he was arrested for DUI.

The dutiful daughter in her thought she should support him unconditionally, which (as she knew), she’d done in the past and his behavior hasn’t changed. She feared enabling him to continue this trend. 

Another part of her wanted to yell at him and tell him to get it through his thick skull that he did this to himself. She didn’t like that option either, thinking she’d only be upsetting herself as he found someone else to blame and ignored her.

Others in the thread gave wonderful support, suggested she already knew what she wanted to do but needed to act or that she needed to search her heart for the answer.

My responses in threads like this tend to be more direct and less fluffy. I suggested the following, “Sometimes the best help we can give is to get out of the way.”

It’s common to think of helping as taking a deliberate action to solve a problem. As I described above, she realizes that if she took the requested action it could perpetuate the problem. Who knows what the root of her father’s troubles are, but she knows she lacks the knowledge of how to address them.

Let me give you a scenario, you come upon the scene of an auto accident. You want to help but don’t know how. Suddenly, highly trained members of EMS show up and order you to get out of the way. How do you respond?

“I got this guys, I just need a minute to Google what to do.” Of course you don’t, you get your ass out of the way.

You know it’s one of those moments when the best way for you to help is to get out of the way, knowing that help is out there but it doesn’t need to come from you. 

Natural consequences can be tough to witness. You can decide to feel guilty for allowing them to unfold without intervening. But you and I both know they’re powerful teachers.    

I routinely recommend allowing natural consequences for the parents of children with ADHD and Asperger’s that I coach. The key is knowing how to have a conversation with your child about those consequences in a way the child will listen and learn. Many of these conversations are recorded and are available at http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

That time I got hammered at the movies

What inspires you? Is it a person, a place, a memory.
 
I look for inspiration wherever I go. It’s a key habit in maintaining a positive mindset, especially on the more difficult days.
 
I found a particular piece of inspiration in a superhero movie, Thor of all places. Stay with me here, you’re going to like this. 
 
Thor is the God of Thunder, a character from Norse Mythology who pummels the bad guys with his mighty hammer Mjolnir. The mythology of which he’s a part plays a vital role in his identity and sense of purpose. He eludes to this somewhat in passing throughout the movies but when he does, my curious mind responds with, “What the hell is that” and I begin researching.
 
One of those shares turned out to be profound and one I suspect was lost on many audience members. It was in his description of Yggdrasil, the world’s tree. Also known as the tree of life, it symbolizes the reality that everything is connected. From the movement of the stars to the inner workings of our own cells and how that functioning on a microscopic level affects the workings of your own body.
 
Okay, enough with the science lesson. I went so far as to buy a ring with an image of Yggdrasil on it. Why Brian, are you a kook or something? Well, the jury is still out on that one.
 
No, I bought it because my raging ADHD is attracted to visual cues (e.g. lists, notes, reminders) that prompt me to keep top of mind the things I’ve decided need to be prioritized in life. In this case, the reality that we’re all connected.
 
This fact, this belief, this value, impacts how I treat other people. It reminds me how important service to others is. “But I don’t need a reminder MR. KING, it’s just who I am.” Good for you, have a cookie. For those of us with brains moving at a million miles an hour and the ability to forget things as soon as we hear them, reminders are critical to living our lives. 
 
How convenient that something as simple as a ring helps remind me of a core virtue. It’s nice to look at too. What inspires you?
 
My online community inspires me as well. Its greatest strength is the feeling of connectedness they share, no matter where they reside in the world. The closest group are those in The Resilience Warrior Program, they love and support one another in a way that’s a thing of beauty. You need to experience it for yourself http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions
 
Thanks for being you,
 
Brian

You’re enough, I can prove it

Your sense of self-worth can be a fickle bitch, am I right? 

It’s important to have a rock solid foundation for keeping it in place, as much as possible.

A few days ago in my Facebook newsfeed I noticed a trend of people commenting about their shaky self-esteem and looking for suggestions to strengthen it. I brought this topic to my clients during one of our weekly coaching calls and we reached some powerful conclusions.

I suggested that the belief you are good enough is a belief you’re under no obligation to defend. You can simply choose to believe its true. Why? 

Because you don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval to believe that you were created within an inherent value. 

A few others on the call shared that their belief in themselves as children of God helped them experience a sense of inherent worth. 

I added a quote from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson who said, “We’re all made of star stuff. Everything in our bodies originated someplace else.” Meaning someplace else in the universe. 

So whether its God or the universe, you are the expression of something bigger than yourself. A wave in a vast ocean. In a cosmic sense, this is no longer a belief, it’s a provable fact. 

Here’s where the real power lies. Once you accept this fact and live like you believe it, watch what happens to your thinking and behavior.

You act one way when you believe you don’t matter.

You act in an entirely new way when you believe you’re the expression of something greater. When you believe those around you have the same inherent worth, holy shit, watch out! 

These are the kinds of conversations we have during our weekly coaching calls in the Resilience Warriors Program. Pretty Amazing huh? Check out the program here http://ResilienceWarriors.solutions

Thanks for being you,

Brian

My son really pushed me yesterday

Living with one disability can be a real bitch let alone living with several. I’m known for my ability to turn any difficulty into a positive but I’m human. 
As a human being who also lives with anxiety and depression, my brain often goes negative first and it’s from there I find my way to the positive. 

Yesterday is a prime example. My wife wanted to go to an arboretum with the boys and I and I was having a flare up that made me want to stay in bed. I saw the disappointment in her eyes as we rarely get to do things she wants to do. So I got myself moving and off we went. 

I used my wheelchair to get around and I became tired quickly in the humid air. I kept trying to muscle through it as thoughts of, “I don’t want to slow anyone down,” “I don’t want to be an inconvenience” entered my mind. 

I felt conflicted as I really needed help but was making myself feel guilty. Until I heard a voice from behind me ask, “Do you want me to push you Dad?” 

My 15-year-old Aidan saw me struggling. I responded, “Do you mind buddy, I’m starting to get tired?”

“Not at all.”

I felt such a relief. 

Something about being offered help in that moment felt better than asking for help. My ego was protected, I suspect.

After a bit, I took the reigns back, until we approached an incline in the path. With collar bones that like to partially dislocate I knew it was unwise to try and muscle my way up. 

I asked Aidan if he wouldn’t mind helping me up the hill?

“Sure!”

I helped a bit so it wasn’t too hard on him.

It felt like a team effort and I expressed my gratitude to him for his willingness to help out. He seemed eager to help but unsure as to when to do so. His willingness made it easier to ask.

As I reflected on the day and the guilt I created early on. I realized that had I continued to selfishly protect my ego the whole time, I likely would’ve been miserable and I wouldn’t have had those special moments with Aidan that came via his helping out his old man. 

I was reminded that there are many ways to model strength. One of them is a willingness to ask for help.  

It’s like I teach in my Resilience Warriors Program. Vulnerability is an act of courage because it invites someone to join you in a very human moment and trusts them to support you there.