This week, I took on the challenge of going to a new, public place by myself. If you struggle with doing things outside of your home by yourself, this post is for you. I want to share with you my experience visiting Reiman Gardens, a beautiful place with a butterfly garden and conservatory. I tend to have a lot of anxiety when going out in public spaces. I took a leap of faith and was rewarded with beautiful views and fulfilling reflection.
I took a step into the real world this week. I visited Reiman Gardens for the 2nd time in the 10 years I’ve lived in town. The first time I went, I don’t quite remember much because I was uncomfortable and stressed, so this time, I sort of count it as my first time. I was inspired by my friend RJ, from Untapped Keg, to go for a walk in a pretty place. And I realized I don’t know why I haven’t gone to the butterfly garden before.
A few days ago, RJ was a guest on WabaStreams’s Mental Health Monday and he shared all about his experiences in exploring new places and just being. He also talked about an impactful podcast that he listened to, about yoga and meditation. By the end of the interview, I felt inspired to not only listen to the podcast episode he shared that was so transformative, but I also felt inspired to actually visit a new place by myself, as well. I looked up the admission fee and learned that people who are on SNAP (and similar programs) get free admission. This enabled me to actively get myself into the mindset of “I’m going” since there wasn’t a financial barrier. With encouragement from my community, I decided to go.
On Thursday afternoon, I took my headphones and a fidget toy and headed to Reiman Gardens. It wasn’t busy. I had almost the entire conservatory to myself (where they keep the really neat plants) and I sat on a chair and listened to a podcast (Ten Percent Happier pod, the episode with the founders of Holistic Life Foundation, Inc.)
I got comfortable in the padded seat and put my feet up on the footstool in front of me. I played with my fidget toy. I looked around. I loosened my shoulders. I took deep breaths. I allowed myself to just exist (and learn about some really neat yoga, like Jnana yoga, which I am excited to learn more about.)
I spent about an hour in the conservatory before going to the butterfly garden. I enjoyed that, too, though it was cloudy so the butterflies were less active. It was the perfect amount of not-busy, though, for me to have my first experience in there. It is a bit smaller of a space than the conservatory, but plenty of room for me to observe.
On Saturday, it was a sunny 46*F and I remembered the volunteer say the butterflies are more active when it’s sunny, so I decided I would go again. This time, I forgot my fidget toy, but that’s okay because it was BUSY!
I did one lap in the conservatory, dodging people taking photos and chatting, and headed outside. There are a ton of beautiful statues and gardens outside, but during winter, many things aren’t in bloom. However, I had my headphones and it was warm enough, so I decided to walk the path around the gardens.
I turned on some Binaural beats and started walking. Outside was much less busy (since it was still chilly & much less to look at) but I enjoyed that because I wasn’t concerned with paying attention to those around me. I looked at the different plants, art, and memory stones as I walked. The sun was shining in my eyes. My senses were on high alert – all of the smells, everywhere! I was surprised that I didn’t sneeze, but here I am now with my nose running. I walked the entire path around the outside gardens, and even visited the world’s largest [concrete] gnome.
I couldn’t tell you what I thought about during my walk, but I can say that I am okay with not remembering. My biggest goal by going was to explore despite the anxiety around going to new places. The fact that I know I wasn’t thinking about work or what I needed to do when I got home is a reward in itself.
After walking the entire path around the outside gardens, I headed back inside. There were only 30 minutes until the facility closed. I went to the butterfly garden area and was glad to see that the crowd of people had mostly left, leaving only a few people still there. I am so glad I went when I did, because I got to witness an employee release a bunch of butterflies from a box.
I stepped a little further out of my comfort zone and asked the employee if the butterflies she was releasing were sick, and she explained that they had just come out of their cocoon! She was nice and didn’t seem too bothered by my asking questions, so I asked some more.
Did you know that butterflies only live between 1 week to a few months, depending on the species? They live a little longer living in this garden, compared to in the wild.
How about that butterflies actually spend most of their life cycle as caterpillars? (Sounds like me, so far…)
Going to Reiman Gardens this week was a huge step for me. As an autistic ADHDer, it can be overwhelming to go out into public, especially when I’m doing it alone. But I took the leap, and to my surprise, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Just like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, I felt like I was breaking further out of my shell and discovering a new world. I took my time, explored the conservatory and butterfly garden, and listened. The peaceful atmosphere and serene surroundings allowed me to simply exist.
I want to leave you with this image in your mind:
Imagine a butterfly garden where the environment is carefully crafted to meet the butterflies’ needs. They have access to food, shelter, and a safe space to grow and flourish. These butterflies live longer and healthier lives than those who have to navigate the harsh and unpredictable world on their own.
In the same way, if we autistic and neurodivergent individuals create our own “garden” that supports our unique needs and allows us to grow and learn about ourselves, we too can live longer, happier, and more fulfilled lives. By embracing our differences and creating a supportive environment for ourselves, we can blossom into the best versions of ourselves, just like the beautiful butterflies in their garden. What is one way you can build toward creating your own garden?
Don’t forget! You can download your own Muenster Mood Meter here: https://thearthubb.com/printable-feeling-words-chart/
Is there anything you’d like to hear from me about? Feel free to comment!
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