|Dear Main Street Community,
Over the last year, especially the last few months of Covid, I have spent much time thinking about the many choices we make and how they impact our lives. Every day we make thousands of choices that range from the mundane, like what to eat for breakfast, to life-changing choices about our health, finances and relationships. Choices have huge significance in our daily lives and they have long-term consequences. From wearing a mask to our political decisions, choices unite us and also divide us in extreme ways.
Choice is something I have often taken for granted. Growing up privileged, I am aware that I had and continue to have choices that are not available to all, especially to those in marginalized populations. As a parent of a son with a disability, I have seen firsthand the lack of choice available to people with diverse needs. After researching housing and inclusive programming for adults with disabilities, I was shocked and angered by the limited opportunities available to this population and their families. The lack of choice, lack of engagement, lack of opportunity to lead healthy and meaningful lives was and remains unacceptable. This realization led me to create Main Street, which is one of the best choices I have ever made.
I loved building Main Street and now I am witnessing the beauty of this building and this community. However, while we were “knee deep” in all things Main Street, I was personally struggling. I needed to examine my own choices and make some changes. Nicol’s health was in jeopardy, he was having erratic and long seizures, experiencing anxiety and had some unexpected transitions. I desperately needed to find a way to support Nicol, to cope with our reality of uncertainty, to help manage Nicol’s fears and to deal with my own. I was trying to sustain hope but felt that my emotions and my attention were being held hostage by fear. Liane Kupferberg Carter summed up exactly how I was feeling in her New York Times article, ”Having a Child with Autism Helps Me Ride Out the Pandemic”. She writes, “I often needed to remind myself not to let my fears for his future rob me of my joys in the present.”
This unsettling feeling, this looming fear was always present for me. I had to make a choice – the choice to seek out help, to reshape my thoughts, which would require time, energy and a real commitment to change. I was ready and began weekly therapeutic sessions, daily meditation and frequent journaling.
During this pivotal time of challenge and reflection, my friend Rachel sent me a book that I began reading immediately. The Choice is a remarkable story of survival by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor. Many lessons can be learned from Edie’s story. Some can learn lessons of the Holocaust, some might learn about courage or mental fortitude, others might finally understand how to move through guilt or what forgiveness looks and feels like. If Edie could get through the unthinkable and make the choice to live fully and not choose fear, I could certainly do the same. But this required the choice to take a deep dive into a dark space, the choice to put ME on my own agenda and the choice to commit to ME.
As a daughter, a wife, a sister and a mom, I have often sidelined my own needs, my own emotions, perhaps my own pain. Nobody directly asked me to do this. It was my choice. Author Linda Kavelin-Popov so brilliantly describes this as the “E-Type Personality, Everything to Everybody”! Boy does the resonate with me. My misconception was that, if everyone I loved was healthy and happy, all would be fine. However, I failed to understand what would happen if I couldn’t help, if I couldn’t control the outcome and if I couldn’t fix my son’s health – if I couldn’t be everything to everybody. I was stuck and held hostage by my own fear and my need for control.
I expect that many of you can relate. Many of us spend so much time as caretakers ensuring everyone is okay, we often forget to add ourselves into the equation. We show up for others constantly. Why aren’t we showing up for ourselves? To shed some light and some levity on this very topic, watch this hilarious SNL skit here. Perhaps you can relate as I did and enjoy the humor and truth within this funny spoof. I chuckle at the spoof now but, just a year ago, this was no laughing matter. I was desperate for change, and the choice I made to change was a brilliant and lifechanging one.
So, you probably know where I am going with this, right? As we move into 2021, what choices will you make? Will you find your courage, your truth and will you show up for you? Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times article provides some ideas for how to begin to do this, even if you have significant caregiving responsibilities. She emphasizes that, as the pandemic has shown us, taking care of ourselves is not selfish but is one way that we take care of our communities.
Please know that the Main Street community is here for you on the journey. Our membership offers so many options for self-care including cultural, educational, wellness and social events that offer authentic connection to authentic people. Our vision is a world where people of all abilities thrive together. And that includes YOU!
Main Street can help you learn. Our Conversation Matters, Giving Matters and culture series will expand your mind.
Main Street can help you improve your health. Our LIVEWELL initiative will launch in the spring. Until then, try our Tai Qigong ball class, our yoga class, our healthy cooking series or our cardio club.
Main Street can help you cope. Our Space of Belonging, chats with “Mama Peace” and Mindful Mornings with Stacey provide opportunities to build resilience in these challenging times.
Main Street can add fun to your life. Move and groove with us during Zumba, join our game days or attend our monthly parties to laugh, dance and enjoy. Whether you are 81 or 17, Zumba and game days will make you smile and we can all use a little of that right now!
And Main Street can help you meet the most fabulous, genuine, caring and supportive people. Come to a hang, a Moms’ Coffee or any social event to share kindness and feel connected. And for the moms out there who feel like I did and need some self-love and respite from your “E-Type Personality”, join us for a 12-part series hosted by Virtues Matter to help us live our best, most grace-filled life. This series will also begin in the spring as part of our health initiative AND I can’t wait!
Main Street has surrounded me with a community of beauty, of support, of connection and of love. Whether it is joining our Main Street community or another opportunity, I hope the choices you make this upcoming year will include showing up for YOU! As my friend Jeni Stepanek often says and I agree, you matter!